Saturday, July 12, 2014

"Orange and Black, better stay back!"

This adult Swamp Milkweed Leaf Beetle is filling up on my Swamp Milkweed.  The adult will lay eggs on the milkweed and the larva emerge and go through 4 instar stages before dropping to the soil and pupating.
We all know of the importance of the milkweed plant for the survival of the Monarch Butterfly but there are other insects that are dependent on milkweed for food and also have the distinctive orange/black coloration that tell insect predators to "BEWARE - I taste bad and carry toxins".  Some of these insects are the Milkweed Tiger Moth (Euchaetes egle), Milkweed Bug (Oncopeltus fasciatus),and the Swamp Milkweed Leaf Beetle (Labidomera clivicollis). Other insects that do not feed on milkweed plants but benefit from the orange/black coloration are the Viceroy Butterfly and the Milkweed Assassin Bug.  This group of insects display what is known as Milkweed Orange and Black Mimicry.
The Swamp Milkweed Leaf beetle overwinters as an adult by finding shelter in forested areas.

Photos: J. Ormiston,
 July, 2014